More than half of the world's energy transition minerals are found on indigenous lands

More than half of the world’s energy transition minerals are found on indigenous lands

An open pit tin mine in the Brazilian Amazon.

An open pit tin mine in the Brazilian Amazon.
Photo: mario tama (Getty Images)

As the gears engage for the world to transition to clean energy, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are going to need more minerals, such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, which help power our cars and form the backbone of our solar panels. And the mining industry quickly realizes how profitable this transition could be for it: lithium prices alone have climbed an incredible 123% this yearr. But the exploitation of these minerals could put some of the world’s most vulnerable people at riskthe same the people who have the greatest role to play in helping to protect our most important natural resources.

A new study finds that more than half of the global resource base for materials critical to the energy transition is on or near the lands where indigenous peoples live. The analysis, published in Nature Sustainability, is a key example of how resource extraction could interfere with indigenous and peasant populations and exacerbate the challenges these people already face.whose work on their land is an essential tool to help fight climate change.

Indigenous peoples have an extremely important influence on lands at risk around the world and are leaders in the fight against climate change. Some analyzes show that the world’s indigenous peoples have some sort of control over 30% of the world’s land, much of it in remote undeveloped areas. And a wealth of growing research linked control of indigenous lands to positive climate outcomes: indigenous communities, according to UN estimates, help maintain 80% of the remaining biodiversity on the planet, and their practices of protecting these lands are a key part of safeguarding some of the world’s most precious. carbon sinks and natural resources.

Unfortunately, excessive industrialization – including mining – in the areas where indigenous peoples live has already caused untold damage to their lives and taken away control of their lands. Extraction of materials like gold and copper in the Amazon, for example, has contributed to large-scale deforestation, polluted local water and food supplies, and led to increased conflict between indigenous people and prospectors and the military. A report a Global Witness report published in October revealed that three people a week, mostly Indigenous people, have been killed since 2011 as they tried to protect their land, the extractive industries being responsible for a quarter of the deaths recorded; mining was the industry directly linked to the highest number of murders.

For the study, the authors looked specifically at the patterns that form around the extraction of the elements we’ll need for the energy transition, compiling a list of around 30 minerals and materials that will be used in the transition products. energy such as EV batteries and solar panels. . They created a dataset of more than 5,000 ongoing or planned extractive projects and compared their locations to lands where indigenous peoples and/or peasants live or exercise some form of control.

The analysis shows that of the 5,097 current and future mining projects studied, 54% of these projects were on lands located on or near indigenous populations. Nearly 30% of these projects, meanwhile, are located on lands that indigenous peoples directly manage and conserve. Lithium is by far the material with the most potential reserves on Indigenous lands: a whopping 85% of current and planned lithium mining projects, according to the analysis, are located on or near lands managed or inhabited by Native people.

There are many issues related to the mining industry as a whole, including child labor and the destruction of precious natural resources – which have begun to rise to the surface as the world accelerates towards the energy transition. There have already been several conflicts between Indigenous peoples and clean energy material miners. These difficult problems are often dismissed by some green tech pushers and climate hawks as a necessary cost of doing business in the age of climate change.

There is no doubt that we will have to tap into the world’s mineral resources to move away from fossil fuels and help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But work like this emphasizes the need to move slowly and carefully, so as not to industrialize large tracts of land and further marginalize indigenous peoples. The authors of the article told Earther that they hope their work will help policymakers explicitly integrate Indigenous rights and land management into energy transition conversations.

“Until these local considerations and pressures are better characterized, current climate solutions risk increasing the rate of industrialization, thereby exacerbating the original problem,” the paper says. “…Extract more [energy transition materials] advancing the energy transition will expand the global footprint of mining lands, which will present significant threats to social and environmental sustainability.

#worlds #energy #transition #minerals #indigenous #lands

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